SmartPhones and Tablets in Finance

The Smart mobile is a factor in everyone’s life today. A growing device form factor is the tablet, started and dominated by Apple since the iPad launch in June 2010. When we talk about tablets, the assumption is that some phones, such as the iPhone4 and some of the Samsung Android phones, also have the capability to run applications, and be used as a replacement or backup to the tablet uses.

For the purposes of this discussion we will focus on the tablet, implying smart phones capable of running tablet style applications, are also included. There is clearly a market for phone only applications, but these are best dealt with as a separate topic, as many of them are primarily Retail focused.

Tablet market generally

• Apple sold 15m iPads in six months in 2010. Predictions vary between the same or double this year.
• iPad2 has been launched, prior to the PlayBook1 shipping to plug the gaps in technology, and has sold out since launch, estimated at 6m units
• Corporate adoption of the iPad remains slow, Apple is not yet geared for this, and the PlayBook is a corporate device

• PlayBook is announced in the US, and will ship on April 10th. European dates are yet to be announced.
• However tethering in the short term will damage the ability for the PlayBook to sell in Europe effectively
• Blackberry make a lot of sales to teenage through to young adults, due to free messages between users.
• This is not a key criteria in the Finance world, but Blackberry is still a dominant force in Corporate devices.

• Android dominates the low-end smart phone space.
• Tablets are still struggling to make an impact, largely due to the need for Android 3.0 to stabilise.
• Expect to see the Android tablets making some in roads in market share
• The issue remains the inconsistent applications, and the threat to security from these devices

• HP WebOS tablets will push for corporate space, but the applications set remains the weak factor
• The wider development community is not focused on the HP platforms, so the innovation is lacking

The tablet wars are far from over, and the smart phone is a commodity.
Applications targeted at Finance need to remain device agnostic to ensure that they can run across the client base

Application usses within Financial Markets

The uses within Finance for these devices are numerous, but as with most things they will start in the front office first due to funding and demand.

Most uses of the tablet device that we see today are web based front ends onto existing content. This paradigm works as a short term stop gap, but the real power of these devices is in delivering focused specific content. This can only be done by rethinking the paradigm, and delivering content to the

The most obvious use is the provision of the Investment Research product to the external clients. One key element of this is to make sure that the internal clients have access to the same data. Making sales calls, when the client is better informed than the salesman is dangerous.

Additionally as a sales tool the tablet is excellent. Combining marketing packs on the tablet, with research materials to back up the conclusions, and linking in the CRM solutions is a big step forward to bringing on sales capability.

Informational provision is a key aspect for finance. Marketing materials, portfolio tracking, trade history, confirmation / matching are all extensions of the kinds of information that could be readily provided to a mobile user, so that they can track their current status, and query against past events.

Active Trading is more difficult, and will only suit certain product types, especially in the institutional environments. Provision of trading apps are normally subject to timing limitations on the provision of the pricing services to ensure that the end user gets a consistent and executable price.

Making Trading mobile could lead to situations where the latency issues around the mobile connection, make providing an executable price unachievable. Applications in this space are viable, but they need to work within the constraints of the network over which the client can safely trade.

Trading applications will need to ensure that the end user has clearly specified boundaries on the time of a trade offer, and the time to execute, and this will need to reflect the risk appetite of the bank offering the price, and the volatility of the instrument. Some products will be easier than others, especially those that require interaction through the transaction, as these are less time critical.

Targeted Applications

The key thing that differentiates tablet access to web access in the current implementations of both technologies is that tablet applications are very targeted.

When you access a web site, the information array available is vast. This is the issue with the web provision of content. The temptation has been to load everything any user could ever want, or attempt to anyway. This has been driven by the expectation that everyone can use Google, so everyone can search the site and find what they want. The issue is that this is not dynamic or targeted. The end user has to work to get their specific information.

The tablet format drives specific apps for specific needs. This is a substantial shift in the application paradigm, and fits well within the original applets concept. Each app on the tablet does one thing. The end-users know to tap between them quickly to retrieve information, and even copy / paste the information. Click on a Skype ID, and Skype comes up. Then tap back to the original app when the conversation or chat is done.

This means that applications can be targeted very specifically towards a group of users, using the same content, as for all users, just structured in a way that suits their working practices. For example an Eastern European focused portfolio manager could see just the content related to his market. Targeted apps are the way forward with the tablet, and will provide a unique user experience.

Targeted web? Not yet….

The question is, when or even if, this targeted view moves back to the web presentation. The web sites will need to provide more tailored views than is currently achievable. Potentially use of the App paradigm on the Desktop is a solution to this i.e. Apple’s MacAppStore. But users will get used to finding material when they want, and focused at their needs.

Sit on a trading floor, and you will see the trader looking at his screen for his core market data apps, but browsing his smartphone for the sports scores. How long before he is looking at his data on a tablet / smartphone, and only using his desktop when he needs to.

worldflow will continue to track and innovate in this space, and we are sure that as the paradigm shifts, it will change the way we all work.